This is an attempt to awaken curiosity to read the holy Gita. I am sharing a few nuggets verbatim from the chapters of the book, with the hope that this gets you started at your own pace. There are many commentaries on the Gita. This version is based on “The Scripture of Mankind” Translation by Swami Tapasyananda.
This is an overview of the 8th chapter titled “Akshar Brahma Yoga” (The way to Imperishable Brahman). The key message revealed in this chapter can be summarised under 4 sections
- The Divine Mystery – Going deeper into concepts of Brahman, Spirit, Karma, Material & Divine manifestations
- Remembering the Lord at Death – The assured way to attain Moksha
- Creative Cycles – In this section the Hindu doctrine of Samsara and the cyclic process of time are explained.
- Life hereafter – Here Lord Krishna explains the paths by which embodied beings depart after death
The chapter starts with Arjuna framing two questions to Lord Krishna
What is Brahman (The Absolute), What is the Spirit (Adhyatma), What is work (Karma), What is that which underlies the material manifestation (Adhibhuta) and the Divinities (Adhidaiva)
Who is Adhiyagna (The spirit underlying sacrifice) that resides in the body. How does a man of self restraint meditate on the Supreme Being at the time of death
The Divine Mystery
Lord Krishna explains – I am the supreme Imperishable Brahman – Akshara. The Brahman’s power manifested in every body as the transmigrating self (the Jiva) is the Adhyatma. The creative act which brings all beings into existence is Karma (Work).
Akshara is undoubtedly the Supreme as the impersonal being. The Upanishad describes the Jiva as a spark of the fire.
The ever changing perishable nature is the material aspect – Adhibhuta. All material combinations including the bodies of beings come out of it. When they perish the substance constituting the bodies go back to their constituents. The material nature as the substance subject to constant change is also imperishable.
The cosmic soul is the basis of all divine manifestations Adhidaivata. The cosmic soul co-relates with Purusha – he who “infills” everything. He is Hiranyagarbha – the first born in the creative process. He endows the senses with their power and directs them in their functions. Another interpretation of the word Purusha is “The collectivity of all individual spirits.” Others say that the Purusha is the Purusha of the Purusha Sukta – the cosmic person, the dismemberment of whose body in sacrifice is the origin of the universe.
Adhiyagna – the one object of all worship. He who is the very practise of worship and who gives the fruits of all worship whatever may be the Deity.
Karma is the creative will of God. ” Great Nature is a womb to Me, I impregnate it with my seed” . Karma has also been interpreted in relation to the Vedic rite of sacrifice.
Remembering the Lord at death
Whoever thinks of the Lord at the time of death attains to His state on abandoning the body. There is no doubt on this. He adds that only those who think of Him intently during their lifetime will have the good fortune of remembering Him at the time of death.
He explains “All through life practise the discipline of concentration on Me. The syllable Om is my sound symbol. With that as support draw the mind to the innermost being and then concentrate on Me”
” He who, with a steady mind and endued with devotion and strength born of spiritual practise, fixes his entire life force between the eye-brows at the time of death and contemplates on Him – he verily attains that Supreme Being”
In this section the Hindu doctrine of Samsara and the cyclic process of time are explained. Creation is co-terminus with time. Time has no beginning or end. It is endless, being cyclic. Someone who has merged with the Brahman, there is no returning to the mortal sphere in course of the endless cosmic cycles
The creative process, when the worlds are in manifestation is called Kalpa. It is followed by a dissolution of the manifested into elemental condition – this is Pralaya. Kalpa & Pralaya which are of equal duration alternate in a cyclic process.
All the Jivas are involved in the cyclical process undergoing birth & death according to their Karma’s, enjoying and suffering, subject to a temporary abeyance of the process when the whole of Prakriti is in dissolution. But they come back to the old condition when a new Kalpa begins just as plants spring from dormant seeds. This entanglemenet in the cycle of birth & death is Samasara.
The delinking of the Jiva from the cyclical process of Time is the ultimate aim of evolution. This attainment of delinking is called Moksha or Liberation. Attaining the Lord is the way to Moksha
Life hereafter – 4 Paths
Here Lord Krishna explains the paths by which embodied beings depart after death – The Dark Path & the Radiant Path
Those who are unattached and practise whole hearted devotion to the Supreme Being go along the Bright path and attain Moksha. Those attached to worldly values go along the Dark Path and come back to the world again at the exhaustion of the effects of their Karma.
Fire, Light, Day Time, Bright Fortnight , 6 months of the northern course of the Sun – the knowers of Brahman who depart along this path attains Moksha.
Smoke, night, black fortnight , 6 months of the southern course of the Sun – the Yogi departing by this path attains to the lunar sphere and returns.
(This is explained in more details in the Notes section below)
Notorious sinners go to Naraka – where they suffer for their sinful acts, after which they are born in animal bodies or as humans under miserable conditions.
There is a 4th category of person who have neither great sins nor great merits to their credit. They are ineffective persons who live a humdrum life of a self centred nature without being virtuous or vicious. They die and are again reborn without going to any other sphere, and go on continuously drifting in the cycle of birth & death with its petty enjoyments and great sorrows until they become spiritually awakened.
The chapter touches upon the time scale of cosmic manifestation and dissolution, depicting the infinitude of Time.
- 1 Human Year makes 1 day & night of the Celestials
- 1200 Celestial Years makes one Chatur Yuga ( 4,32,000 human years makes one Chatur Yuga or a cycle of 4 Yuga’s)
- 1000 Chatur Yuga’s makes one day time of Brahma – Kalpa. An equally long period is his night – Pralaya
- 365 such days & nights makes 1 year of Brahma
- A hundred such years constitute his life span
- The end of his life is marked by a major Parlay ( Maha Pralaya) of duration equal to his life time.
- After that the creative cycle (Maha Kalpa) starts again under a new Brahma.
The Path of Light
Jivas who have practiced devotion to God and performed all their duties and work as offerings to Him – and without any desire of their fruits will have a gradual spiritual progress passing through various realms like Fire , Light etc. Presided by deities known by those names. The Jiva gradually attains higher spiritual evolution in realms that foster spiritual growth and finally attains liberation.
The other way known as Pitryana (The way of Manes) – The Non Luminous path is through realms known as Dhuma , Ratri etc – presided by deities of these names. They attain the Lunar Sphere. There they enjoy the fruits of the ritualistic and philanthropic actions of a meritorious nature, which they have performed with an eye on the fruits – and when these merits are exhausted they take rebirth on earth.
To be continued ……..
Reference for previous chapters